Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 18 1998 7:37 AM

Up In Smoke

Everybody leads with the demise of the tobacco bill, pulled off the Senate floor by a Republican-dominated vote. There is some variety in the headlines though. The Los Angeles Times, with its "Senate GOP Kills Tobacco Measure" and the Washington Post, with its "Senate GOP Kills McCain Tobacco Bill" point fingers and opt for the active voice. USA Today goes passive with "Tobacco Bill Dies in Senate." And the New York Times is somewhere in between with "Senate Drops Tobacco Bill With '98 Revival Unlikely; Clinton Lashes out at GOP."

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The Clinton lashing came moments after the denouement, when the President, described by USAT as "clench-jawed" and "flushed," said, "If more members of the Senate would vote like parents rather than politicians, we could solve this problem and go onto other business of the country." Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who led opposition to the legislation, viewed it as having strayed from its original purpose to become instead, in the LAT's words, "a typically Democratic big-tax, big-spending" bill. Newt Gingrich is quoted by everyone as saying that House Republicans will take up and pass more narrowly focused legislation intended to reduce teen smoking, but not increase taxes.

The WP sees this turn of events as a "major defeat" for President Clinton and public health advocates, and a victory for the cigarette companies, bringing to an end "an unprecedented year-long effort to reduce smoking by young people and strictly regulate the tobacco industry." All the papers note the crucial role played in the defeat by the tobacco industry's $40 million ad campaign, but it's the NYT that makes the analogy with the way insurance company ads were used in 1994 to defeat health care reform.

Noting that the bill came out of the need for federal legislation to enforce last year's proposed settlement deal between the cigarette manufacturers and numerous states, the NYT explains that now, the states can be expected to resume pressing their individual multibillion-dollar claims.

Both USAT and the NYT report that when the bill's chief architect, Republican Sen. John McCain, conceded defeat in a heartfelt speech on the Senate floor in which he castigated his own party, he received a standing ovation from Democrats in attendance and seated silence from members of his own party. This of course, leaves the reader hungry for more information about why McCain bucked his own party to fight this fight, but none of the news stories obliges.

All the front pages feature coverage of a bold and surprising move undertaken yesterday by the U.S. and Japan in concert: the countries' central banks bought as much as $4 billion in yen on the open market, which sparked further purchases of the Japanese currency by traders, all of which reversed the recent steep slide in the yen. The tactic, which the Wall Street Journal observes was the first U.S. entry into the currency markets in three years, buoyed markets around the world, including Wall St. Inside the WP is an excellent primer on the move and international currency markets in general.

A NYT front-pager by Jeff Gerth, who broke the Loral/China satellite story last April, reports that the Clinton administration is rethinking a $650 million mobile phone satellite deal between China and Hughes Space and Communications that it initially green-lighted two years ago. Administration officials express to the paper their concern that the Chinese general in charge of his country's satellites has made statements suggesting his country's military may be planning to use the system to gather information from mobile phones in use in China and neighboring countries. Another discomfiting feature passed along by the Times is that the general's son was hired by Hughes to work on the project.

The WSJ stuns with a front-page feature about two North Carolina men who are peddling to the women of the third world an extremely low-cost (more than three thousand times cheaper than birth control pills, says the Journal) chemical sterilization agent called quinacrine. Because there is considerable evidence that the substance may well be a carcinogen, quinacrine sterilizations are banned in the U.S. and are opposed by nearly all family planning organizations and many foreign governments. But, the paper explains, since the men aren't running clinical trials and aren't doing any domestic sales, they are beyond the reach of the FDA. They operate through a low-profile network of doctors, nurses and midwives in such countries as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, avoiding whatever meager regulatory mechanisms those countries maintain. They have already sold pills used in 100,000 procedures overseas, and envision many, many more.

The WSJ "Business Bulletin" notes that despite the plethora of Father's Day gift ads maligning ties, the Neckwear Association of America reports that sales rose three percent last year. Wonder if tie aficionado Bill Clinton is responsible. If so, look for a Nathan Detroit comeback soon: The picture inside USAT of Clinton making his remarks about the tobacco bill depicts the president in a sartorial style rarely seen in official Washington--a dark shirt and a light tie.